Chapter Twenty-one

Main Island, Puerto Rico

Night had fallen hard, and darkness erased the ocean and sky and the horizon that divides them.  The zodiac had carried them to a point just south of the landing area, and Pudge and the three natives waited quietly under a mound of palm trees on the beach for the next alien vessel to arrive. They dared not start a fire for obvious reasons, and though the night was relatively warm, the sea-breeze brought a little chill to their bones. Pudge’s cast was soggy, mushy, and uncomfortable, and pain shot up his mending leg in waves.   

“Pocho,” Pudge waved him over, realizing immediately that Pocho could not see him. “How often do they come? Do you know?”   

“I see dem come every morning and every night, but I no sure when.” Pocho replied, as he reached out with his hand to find Pudge.  

“I think we may have a problem with our little plan, Pocho. The vessels are darker than the night itself. We’ll never be able to see them.”   

“No, Pudge, it won’t be problem. You see. You see when dey comes.” Pocho tapped Pudge’s arm in assurance as he spoke.  

The sky was dotted with stars but no moon, and the only sound was made by the waves lapping against the sandy shore. Pudge was reminded again of his suicide attempt and the call of the Coqui by the lack of insect sounds. Or bird songs. Fish… Had they seen any fish?   

“Pocho, han visto pescados?” He asked.   

“Si, hermano, pero muy pocos.” Pocho replied.   

So some fish still survived, Pudge mused, why had they survived? Had the ocean protected them?  He had begun to wonder what they would be eating if they managed to survive for long. Canned food would only carry them for a while, and vegetables and meat seemed like an impossibility. 

He had been scanning the sky as he thought of these things, the unenviable trait of human hope refusing to die against all odds making him feel empty and sad, when a black line cut through the night sky, easily discernible despite the dark on dark, and began to spread like the opening of an elevator. The dark light emanated from a spot just behind the sand dunes to their right, and all four men crawled over to get a better view.   

“Here we go, my frien,” Luis said. “This is when dey come. The door, it opens, the light shines out and the ship… The ship disappears in it. Like a brujeria.” 

The wind picked up, once again presaging the arrival of a ship. Pudge noted this one was medium sized, not one of the larger ships he had previously seen high in the shy. As the ship started to land, floating down softly, the dark light widened and a bright spotlight shined out right through the middle. The bright light came from a much larger ship taking up much of the shoreline and extending well inland. It had not been visible in the dark, melting into the landscape. 

As it illuminated the incoming vessel, the white glow grew to cover part of the ground just below their sand dune, and the smaller vessel came to rest just twenty-five yards from the watching men.   The realness of the vessel, the hard black metal, the mass of it, touched a primordial fear inside Pudge he had never felt. He felt small, vulnerable, and helpless. He pushed down a desire to run as fast as he could in the opposite direction.  

He raised himself further up on the dune instead, trying to get a better view of the light and dark opening beyond the smaller vessel. Pocho was lying on the very crest of the hill, and the other two men lay just behind Pudge. Pudge rubbed his eyes, trying to adjust them to the illuminated scene.   He saw two dark blobs emerge from the large opening and approach the recently arrived craft. He could not see if a door had also opened on the new ship, but then he saw another pair of figures approaching the previous two from the smaller craft. As they came closer featureless tendrils grew from each figure and met, melding into a four-way link. The forms appeared to wobble slightly as the tendrils disconnected and bounced back to each alien.   

Pudge realized he had been holding his breath and he released it and took in a deep slow breath to calm his nerves. He noticed that Pocho had raised his head and was now on his hands and knees. Pocho’s head was now high enough that his face was illuminated partially by the glow, and it was drawn with a look of puzzlement. Pudge followed his eyes and looked back towards the ships. New forms had joined the first four, many more, these all carefully lined up and moving slowly toward the dark opening and the spotlight. From these forms a keening, mournful sound arose. The sound got louder as the numbers increased, and also more distinct as crying and angry shouts became discernible. These were not indistinct malformed forms, and Pudge realized that he was looking at dozens of humans walking in a line. 

“Jesus! Are those peoples?” Luis’ voice broke as he spoke. 

“Yes, Luis, I think they are.” Pudge responded, sliding down the sand toward Luis and Manuel. 

“What are they doing to dem? Where they going?” 

“I don’t know, Luis, and I don’t think there is much we can do about it right now.” Pudge answered, his eyes trying to adjust to the dark again. 

“They are taking peoples in their flying things, and bringing dem here, to the bigger things. And then what happen to them? We need to go away from here now.” Luis said, trying to catch his breath between words. 

“I agree. We need to hide and find some way to help them. But first, we need to stay alive and free. Manuel, get Pocho and let’s go. We have to find a place to hide in the dunes.” 

Manuel scurried up the bank to get Pocho, and Luis and Pudge reached for each other as they got up to stay together as they walked in the dark. They stood and waited for the other two to return, scanning the top of the dunes, where the light shone, watching for their friends’ shadows to emerge.   

They could still hear the clamor of the human captives, and it tore at Pudge’s insides. But there was nothing he could do to save them. They had no weapons and no knowledge about the beings. Any attempt to save the enslaved would be a fool’s errand and only likely get them all killed. Maybe with a few days of surveying the area and if the right opportunity were to present itself, they might be able to do something, but what that might be escaped him at this point. 

“Pudge, where is dey? Dey should be back now.” Luis said, pulling on Pudge’s arm. 

Pudge snapped out of his revelry and realized Luis was right. Pocho had been barely on the other side of the dune. It should have taken seconds to get him back. Then he noticed that the keening sounds had stopped, and as he raced to the top of the mound, he could hear only one voice screaming. 

“Mi Hermana! Mi hermana!”

It was Pocho’s voice, and he was scampering at full speed down the hill, the spot light narrowed on him and following his every step. 

Chapter 22

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